Five Ways China Beats the West at Sustainability

February 15, 2019

Its smoggy cities, polluted waterways, and corruption may capture the biggest headlines. For its part, though, China is doing more to advance a sustainable future than many other countries could dream ever of. Here are five ways China is beating the rest of the world at creating a more sustainable future. 


#1) Green Investment


Over the past year, China has invested more than $360 billion into green innovation. This is nearly triple what the entire European Union invested during the same period. By 2020, the aim is to be putting in this number, or more, annually towards technologies to ensure a more sustainable future. Financial and capital investments, more than regulatory changes, truly signal a shift in priorities between the old and new China. These shifts are focused primarily on manufacturing, skill upgrades and the environment.


#2) Green Transportation


From high-speed rail to EV taxis, China is leading the world in adopting green modes of transportation.


Electric vehicles, long the pipe dream of environmentalists in the U.S., are now commonplace in China. The world’s largest electric vehicle market, China makes up 35% of all global sales. BYD is the stand out leader in the market, second only to Tesla in EV development. Their headquarters’ city, Shenzhen, is also the world’s only city to have 100% electric buses and public taxis.


​China is also home to 60% of the world’s high-speed rail network. Infrastructure upgrades continue, including the development of new technologies like the Fuxing bullet train. Developed entirely using Chinese technology and manufacturing, the Fuxing can reach speeds of 400 km/h. In addition, the train will have over 2,500 monitoring points to gauge safety and comfort for passengers. 


#3) Alternative Energy


Yes, China still relies heavily on coal for its power supply. This is because it’s cheap, plentiful, and something people are used to using. Government policies and incentives, though, are quickly adapting citizens to alternative energy sources like wind and solar. When it comes to wind, nobody beats China. The Middle Kingdom produces 33.6% of all the world’s wind power, more than any other country. In fact, almost half of the entire new capacity of the world in 2016 was installed by China. Solar power, too, is the largest in the world. China produces, installs, and uses more photovoltaic power than anywhere else.


#4) Tech for Good


China is home to more Internet users than any other country in the world. According to China Internet Watch, the country has 751 million current Internet users, more than the entire population of Europe. A movement towards using tech for good is following the country’s exponential rise in information technology in three big ways. Alongside air quality monitoring apps are real-time data trackers for factory emissions, wastewater and effluent discharge, and individual carbon footprints. Secondly, the Chinese government is capitalizing on technology in its efforts to green the country’s manufacturing sector and with it, global supply chains. Lastly, from grocery shopping to food waste, fitness to healthy lifestyles, technology is also addressing a number of other issues indirectly linked to protecting China’s environment.


#5) Smarter Cities


Not just smart cities, but smarter cities, are popping up across the mainland. China has over half the world’s smart cities currently under construction. One example of this already in action is Yinchuan, dubbed China’s smartest city. Xiongan, a new green city envisioned to ease the overpopulation of the capital, received its first round of funding on the order of $19 billion. Located 2 hours south of Beijing, or a 30-minute bullet train ride, the city will eventually accommodate 2.5 million people. There has also been approval for a 250-acre farming district in Shanghai. The district will provide “…717,000-square feet of housing, 138,000-square-feet of commercial space, 753,000-square-feet of vertical farms, and 856,000-square-feet of public space.” 


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